Raising the Advocacy and Policy Profile of ASTMH
Kent Campbell, with Ilisa Halpern Paul, Jodie Curtis and Sally Finney
This follow-up report will outline activities of the past three months, during which ASTMH has been very active in Washington, D.C., achieving several early successes in our policy and advocacy efforts.
The newly formed ASTMH Policy and Advocacy Leadership Group first met in December to chart a multi-year plan to raise the society’s profile and capacity in national and global policy, advocacy and legislation.
The key recommendations that emerged from this initial dialog between our government affairs team and our committee are as follows:
With planning completed, we then set about the task of building relationships on Capitol Hill, a step made necessary by the changes in Congressional leadership that took place after the November elections.
In February, Sally, Ilisa, Jodie and I met with staff of selected members of Congress. We focused on introducing ASTMH as a scientific resource in shaping public policy and presented the society’s legislative requests for the current year. The key targets for these meetings were members of the Illinois delegation (because of ASTMH’s headquarters location), members of my home state (Arizona) delegation, and members assigned to the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that oversee funding for the tropical medicine research and control programs housed at the Department of Defense (DoD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
These introductory discussions with House and Senate staff went well. The staffers showed an interest in ASTMH, expressed support for our priority concerns, and expressed willingness to work with us.
We followed these meetings with a second round in March, and ASTMH president-elect Claire Panosian served in my stead. Again, the meetings were strategically focused on members from Claire’s home state (California) and other key members of the funding subcommittees mentioned above.
After our visits to the Hill in January and March, it is clear that this Congress is tracking many health-related concerns. Their challenges, as always, are the scarcity of resources and limited time available to address the myriad priorities of government.
Having said that, some of the leading health care priorities identified by House and Senate Democratic leaders for this year are: reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) (which will likely be linked to reform of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and expanded access to care by the uninsured.
At the same time the current health agenda is largely domestic in focus, a number of macro-political factors are in play that do support our issue areas. The President’s Malaria Initiative enjoys broad bipartisan support, and members want to sustain the momentum. PEPFAR is up for re-authorization. Additional global health concerns are also on the radar screen, and some key leaders, such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are bringing voice to the African health workforce crisis. Some members and staff also posed questions and concerns about the implications of global warming for national and worldwide health with reference infectious and non-infectious diseases.
By visiting Congressional offices and getting to know key officers, we are positioning ASTMH to become a resource and thought leader on these and other important matters before Congress. Members of council and the ASTMH Advocacy and Policy Leadership Group will be making another day-long round of Capital hill visits in May following our mid-year council meeting.
Before long, I predict that our society — with its enormous expertise — will emerge as a valued voice in the U.S. legislative process. To that end, we will ask ASTMH members to contribute in several additional ways, for example, by working with local Congressional members (especially those on key committees), developing expert policy and scientific briefs; and visiting Capitol Hill to foster relationships and educate about our issues. Stay tuned!
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